Science Trumps Dirty Dozen Produce List

Science Trumps Dirty Dozen Produce List

February 23, 2014

Science Based Data Pushes Back

on Dirty Dozen Produce List


By Patrick Cavanaugh, editor

Marilyn Dolan
Marilyn Dolan, Executive Director of Alliance for Food and Farming

The Environmental Working Group, which issues what they call the Dirty Dozen Produce list each year, has gotten major pushback by science based produce companies.

“The dirty dozen list is produced by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and it tells people about the 12 top commodities, that are the most pesticide contaminated of all fruits and vegetables, said Marilyn Dolan, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food & Farming, based in Watsonville, Calif.  “They tell consumers  ‘what they should do for those 12 items is to buy organic, and not conventional, because the conventional is laden with pesticides’”

However the Alliance for Food & Farming think the EWG is totally off-base and needed to be pushed back with facts. “The Alliance feels that this is fear-based marketing and doesn’t encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables and scares consumers,” said Dolan.

“We have launched a program to educate the media and others about the facts behind pesticide residues and the fact that residues are so low that consumers should just eat fruits and vegetables,” Dolan said. “It doesn’t matter if the fruits and vegetables are organic or conventional, because they are all safe and good for consumers.”

In 2010 the Alliance launched a campaign called safe fruits and veggies initiative and they also launched a website that is designed to give consumers credible science-based information about the safety of fruits and vegetables. “There is all kinds of information there, including scientific reports, and interactive tools that can be used,” said Dolan.

“There is also a pesticide residue calculator, which can be used to show consumers that they can eat up to 56,000 servings of carrots and there would be no health impacts from pesticides on them because they are so, so small,” she said.

The website for this information is

Dolan noted that the media listened to the facts. “Before 2010 when we launched our safe fruits and veggies program, the media usually ran the dirty dozen list every year, and never provided any counter-balance.”

“However, once we decided to educate the media about this information, we found that they responded to it really well and they started looking at the information that was presented. And for the most part they just quit talking about the issue of pesticide residues. This is because they could see from our website that the information was there to counter this dirty dozen list,” she noted.

Dolan said that it became harder for the media to cover the story, and fortunately for everyone they opted to not cover it so much any more. “There has been a drastic reduction on the coverage of the dirty dozen every year when it’s released.

One of the big messages on the website is that strict government regulations are in place in the U.S. and extremely healthy-protective. “There are all kinds of systems from the EPA setting safety tolerances, to the USDA and the State Departments, who monitor actual residues on fruits and vegetables to make sure that they are not over safety limits.

“And consistently these government agencies find that fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. are extremely safe, that they usually have no pesticide residues on them at all, and if they do, they are very, very small,” said Dolan. “They repeatedly assure Americans that fruits and vegetables are safe to eat and health experts around the world are telling people that they should be eating more fruits and vegetables.”